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Promoting Business Growth Through Value Creation With Jim Estill
I met our guest in Cabo at the MMT Conference. We went paddle boarding together and over a couple of days, I heard his amazing story. He’s the President and CEO of Danby Products. He’s invested 150 companies and wrote the book, Zero To $2 Billion, following his TED Talk of the same name. Jim Estill, I am pumped to have you on the show.
Thanks for having me, Jesse. I’m looking forward to it.
It was such a pleasure meeting you because of the humility that you showed. What you’ve done as far in business and as you saw some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world gave you a standing ovation when you were the surprise speaker because of your story. Share a little bit about your story and growth because you have a different mindset on growth. You said growth is inspirational and it’s good to show growth. I’d love to hear a little bit your growth story so the audience can know where you are and where you’ve come from.
I started my first company from the trunk of my car. I was an engineer who needed a computer. I got a better deal that I bought two of them. I bought two and I sold one and someone else wanted a computer so I bought another two. Someone wanted a printer, someone wanted some software. It was buying and selling computers, hardware, software peripherals. I grew that company to $2 billion in sales, which is how I got the title of the book, Zero to $2 Billion, which is largely a marketing book. I’d love to say everything is linear, but nothing’s linear. You always have your setbacks, your challenges. If you speak about growth, it is inspirational for staff. It becomes an upward cycle. You grow and then that inspires people so they grow some more and then you grow some more and it gives an opportunity for people. People don’t want to work in a company that’s going to grow by 2% a year or have no growth because then how does a company even stay in business? Some of your costs are going to go up anyway. The only way to make money is to let lay people off or whatever. That’s not what I like doing.
We had Paul Jarvis on the show and he talked about better over bigger and if you focus on better, things to take care of themselves. He said, “We went zero to $2 billion. It’s no big deal.” People going from zero to $200,000 or to $2 million, it’s such a challenge. I’d love to hear a little bit about how you did that. I’m sure you talked about where your customers were going because you mentioned briefly then they wanted a printer so we got them a printer and then they wanted this so we got them this. I want to get into marketing a little bit. Share how you were able to do this.
For starters, I’m a 25-year overnight success. It took me 25 years to do this and people don’t understand that. My first-year sales were $450,000 and then the second year was $1.079 then $2.6 million, then $4.6 million, then $5.6 million. That was a slow growth year, then $10 million, then $21 million, then $31 million, then $40 million, then $39 million, and then $41 million. That was three years where I had no growth. I went down in one year. I was always growing before that. That taught me how much growth is important. I did $68 million and then I did $104 million. It took me a decade to get to $100 million in sales. In the last five years in business, I never grew by less than $100 million a year. I would often grow by $100 million in a quarter. When you’re a $1 billion company, to grow by $100 million isn’t a big deal. That’s the story.
What happened though? You’re not just internally talking here. The Bananas, we reached a point where we can’t sell any more tickets. With some fortune, it sold out every game. When we’re asking this question, I believe growth is inspirational because if your people can’t feel like they can grow, then what are they doing? They want to feel like they’re growing personally. They want to grow in their life, in their leadership abilities. In those three years that you didn’t grow, what did you change? What were the adjustments? What happened? Did you lose team members? I want to hear about those years because that’s what we’re going through. A lot of companies go through it where they don’t grow for a little bit.
You’re in a tough time, unfortunately, in business. Those were tough years. The whole economy was relatively tough. It wasn’t like we were the only ones who were suffering. I didn’t lose as many staff as I might have because there were other companies who were not hiring or they were laying off and whatnot. I was able to pick some good talent who got laid off from other companies. The way I choose to grow tends to be you’ve got what you do. You do the Savannah Bananas but then you could think, “It’s Sunday morning and the field is not used. We’re going to do something else on the field that uses the field and is another revenue source.” It could be related to baseball, but it could be equally related to marching bands. It could be related to football for all. I don’t know enough. You can morph and use one of the principles of successful businesses, competitive advantage. What are the things you can do uniquely that they can’t do as easily? I know you’ve done a lot of that with Savannah Bananas, things like your logo, your mugs, your hats, your T-shirts. You created this brand and that’s great because you’ve got a brand. What else can you use that brand for? What would be other ways of extending? It could be simply that it has nothing to do with the ballpark. It has to do with your internet business or whatever.
One thing that we both agree on so much is always experiment. I’ve heard a lot about fail fast. You say fail often, fail fast and fail cheap. We’re constantly experimenting. Getting over that fear that some things may not work well and it taking these small bets. We’ve done lots to give an exhibit. We’ve done haunted stadiums and Ballpark Beer Fest and all those. Those didn’t work as well with our brand, but we keep taking those that don’t hurt. I would love to know some of the things that you tried. It was like, “Why do you believe so much in these experimentations?”
It should be a lot to fail fast and fail cheap. You should invest some of your profit into trying new things. It’s the way you learn what might work.Investing some of your profit into trying new things allows you to learn what might work or not. Click To Tweet
What are some things that you’ve done?
I have done many things. The beauty of the failures is people don’t remember you for the failures. They don’t care about the failures and there’s no problem that you have some failures. Some of my examples, I went out in the warehouse, Danby makes appliances. We shipped the product in from China many times. I went out there and we get containers coming in with a foot of space in the top and say, “We paid for shipping this stuff.” I went out and said, “What are some products that we can put there?” We introduce to a line of electric kettles and choppers and blenders, which we don’t make. We put our label on and use it to fill the space because we had a competitive advantage. That was a fail often, fail fast, fail cheap.
I learned that we’re not great in that market. It’s not a failure. It’s not a raving success. We’re not making tons of money. We’re not losing money. It’s one example of creativity. The other thing we did with that is we brought them in brown boxes because most of the competitors bring them in nice colored boxes for the stores. That means when they shipped them on the internet, they have to put them in a brown box. We could save $0.50 because we didn’t do a color box. You save $1 because you don’t do an over box and the labor is another $0.50 and you’re saving the shipping costs. All those little things add up to a few dollars per product. These are not expensive products. You can be 10% less cost on that. What I’ve learned is the white goods dealers don’t sell tabletop appliances because I mostly sell to places that sell freezers and wine coolers and stuff like that.
It’s funny too, Jim, I get asked that question all the time, “Tell me about your failures.” I have so much difficulty answering that because we don’t see them as failures. Everything is discovery and it’s like, “We move on. You move on.” To have a culture of innovation, you’re like, “That’s part of the business. We try, we move on and we don’t even focus on it. We’re onto the next thing.”
I’d invested in 150 technology businesses. I’ve exited from 25 of them. Twenty-five of them were successful. I have 100 failures. I can’t even remember the names of all the failures because they’re names you don’t recognize. When I say, “One of those companies I did was Blackberry.” You say, “Blackberry, great.” I’m famous because I did a Blackberry. At the same time I did Blackberry, I did 100 other companies that you never heard of because they went under. That’s the experimentation you need to do in your business, in your ballpark. You find out, “Maybe Chiquita Bananas are going to sell better than the Savannah Bananas in the grocery store. You shouldn’t be in the banana business.”
You mentioned Blackberry, which is interesting. You’re on the board of Blackberry. People say that it’s a well-named success. Blackberry, in essence, also would be defined as a failure because they missed it where the market was going.
I jokingly say I was on the board before they went public and I left the board in 2010 and now look at what happened to them.
You weren’t able to see they had this mindset of this is who we are and they didn’t go where their customers were going. They said, “This is who we are and they didn’t adapt.” Did you see any of that happening or what they were doing?
You see it but in hindsight it’s always 20/20 so you can’t fault people for being hindsight 20/20. At the time Apple came out, Blackberry was a business device. The whole thinking around everybody was people aren’t going to spend $500 on a toy, a home device. What’s music or movies have to do with business? I’m a business guy. I want business communication. I want the best business thing. That was a huge miss. The same thing is true when you go apps. What’s fascinating is that Apple did apps in the App Store and all of this.
At the same time, their computers were generally close. If I had an Intel processor in an HP computer, they allowed everyone else to run their software. Apple was a very closed system on their PC. It’s interesting how they did close system on their PCs, open system on their phones. Companies also go off the rails is when they start chasing and copying. You’ve already tried to do copy as you say, “The hockey team locally did this. We’re going to do exactly what the hockey team did.” I guarantee you that’s going to fail for you because you never win when you’re chasing someone.
Innovation is everything. I love talking about more than anything, especially now you’ve got to disrupt yourself sometimes. You’ve got to do things that are different. You’ve developed a marketing approach that has thought, “This isn’t the typical marketing approach,” and always touching your customers and finding a way and the 3-Second Marketing Rule. I’m fascinated by some of the unique marketing things you’re doing because that’s what we try to do every day. We’re not going after baseball fans, we’re trying to be unique to want to show and give them a show. Tell me some of the things about these marketing concepts that you’ve developed.
One of my principles is I A/B test everything or A, B, C, D, E, F, G test everything. In your business, you could send 1,000 flyers to homes. You could give out 1,000 bananas in the mall. You could test people coming in with the flyers to get the discount. They come in with the cars that had the bananas and you find out, “You bought bananas.” You don’t want more fans. If you want more fans, you don’t want more people in the seat. I will A/B test and on the internet that goes right down to fine stuff. We can say, “One of our Danby products is a parcel mailbox for your front porch.” That’s a good example of innovation and thinking differently. When I came into Danby Appliances, we made freezers, refrigerators, wine coolers and we put our name on some microwaves and some dishwashers and stuff like that.
We’re largely an appliance company. We changed the way we think of ourselves to we’re a company that makes big boxes. What’s the big box? You’re getting all these Amazon deliveries, you’re seeing all the porch pirates. We came up with electronic and I have a computer background. It’s a parcel mailbox that the UPS driver or the FedEx driver puts the parcel in and you get an email or a text to say you’ve got a three-pound parcel arrived at 10:46. You look at the IP camera and see who delivered it. They have the box, which is bigger than what will fit in the top part. You can remotely open it or give me the one-time use code. It’s got a car alarm if someone tries to jimmy it or move it. It’s electronic but it is thinking differently the way we do things.
You’re in the appliance business, similar about Sears. Sears was an appliance company that’s gone away and you’re competing with some big other brands. Now, you’ve created a huge brand. How do you stand out? That’s an idea but how do you make people say, “I want Danby?”
One thing we do is we try to figure out what is it the customers want. We’ve learned that customers want reliable and dependable. We try to make ten-year appliances. I’m not proud if I sell you a refrigerator that doesn’t last for ten years or a freezer that doesn’t last for ten years. That means I have failed. When you put that in the whole thing, the other thing that happens especially around wine coolers is design. You want to have a sexy you could but some products like a freezer. The freezer is a white box that freezes food. Our white box that freezes food is the same other people white box that freezes food. What we need to do there is all about execution and the little things or other ways we could do things a little bit easier, faster, better than someone else. I use a closed-loop system on feedback. We take every review that anyone does on the internet or anything anyone says on Twitter and you try to figure out how can we make it so nobody else has that issue or it’s all closed-loop. The same thing is when you call customer service.
Even if you’re calling and saying, “My freezer is not working.” It’s because your power doesn’t work. How can we make it so that you don’t call us and you know that you have to plug in your power or whatever? Everything is closed-loop. Same thing when people say, “We got the product and it’s dented.” That means do we have to make better packaging? Do we have to design the product better? We have a stove made for us and we’re finding that the feet were sometimes getting bent because the box would drop a little bit and the feet would bend. We put a spring. It’s not the spring that you could jump up and down on it. It means if you dropped it from six inches, the spring absorbs it. It doesn’t break the leg. It’s the little tiny innovations. For many of your audiences, that’s what they need to do is a bunch of little tiny micro innovations. It’s not about one big thing. It’s all about a bunch of little things.
Jim, what I’m hearing is it’s listening carefully to your customers and then executing on that. For us, we always look at these big innovations. For you, it’s systematic, “We measure everything.” Is that what’s been a success for you? We measure every single thing and we’re executing on that.
We measure every single thing and the other thing is always to challenge the status quo. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing. Don’t accept that’s the only way we’re going to do it. How can we do it differently and thinking differently? I always think in terms of competitive advantage. What are the things we might build a little easier, better, faster, cheaper than someone else and then execute on it? It’s all about competitive advantage.
You have to give the 3-Second Marketing Rule and then how you believe in marketing and touching your customers every step of the way? It’s those two pieces.
We live in a Twitter personality, you’ve got three seconds. If you take more than three seconds, nobody’s going to listen to you. I’m an engineer, but don’t give an engineer white paper because they’re not going to read it. You’ve got three seconds. That’s it.
These are all copies. This is in videos. This is anything like, “Those first three seconds, hit them with something powerful.”Give more than you take and give even though you don't know that you will get a return. Click To Tweet
If I send you a video and I’m telling you you’re going to log off. If I don’t get your attention, the first few seconds I’m going to do it. I love to have a video. You sent me a video. If it says even that it’s five minutes, I’ll watch it on the weekend. It means I never get around to watching it. You’re better off to say its two minutes. I’ve got two minutes. That’s no big deal. As far as always touch the customers. In marketing, the expense is the distribution to the customer. Whenever you touch a customer, market to them is what I do. When you buy one of our products, you’ve got a Bosh. When you buy one of our products, we’ve got a brochure with all of our other products. When you register your warranty, we give you a few free months of warranty. We keep marketing but not in an obnoxious used car way. I only sell people products that they want. The parcel mailbox is a perfect example. You are interested in that because that’s new, that’s interesting. Even other products that are more mundane, “I didn’t know that Danby had a bar fridge.”
It’s simple as marketing and you’ve touched your customers. It’s everything you send out whether it’s a flyer, whether it’s an email and it has other options to buy. My question is we don’t believe people want to be sold. We believe they want to be served. It comes down to the language because in everything you’ve said, “We also have this. You may also like this.” It seems like it happens so much. How do you do it in a way that your customers feel you’re providing value?
There are different ways to create value. One way to create value is through interest. One, I don’t know you well but I know you well enough. You’re an interesting guy. You’re wearing a yellow tuxedo. This is weird, but it’s interesting. Interest is one way you can do it. Information, that’s why the parcel mailbox is so cool because not everybody knows about it. People like to know about the new latest thing. You can do it with humor. It’s anything that’s funny. People like to smile. There are different ways to get permission. Partly, humor can be making fun of yourself. I did a presentation to an audience. I had my slides and the title was Danby Appliances: Boring Appliances Since 1947. You want to explain what you’re doing not to be boring appliances and going forward. People resonate with that because you think appliances are boring.
As you said, they’re boring appliances. You know what people are saying about you. We know baseball is boring to most people. We’ve got to do the exact opposite. You poked fun of yourself. You said, “We’re boring appliances.” How in that presentation you say, “It’s not that boring. We’re fun, we’re unique?” How do you get them excited?
Here’s the key. I’m telling you, you want a boring appliance. You do not want to worry that your meat is fine. It’s a boring appliance that freezes your food and you know that. In reality, I’ve sold you why you want a boring appliance. It’s interesting to be appliance would be one that goes on and off or one that doesn’t work well. Ours doesn’t need to be interesting. We can add some features like when we get into the wine coolers, it’s boring and sexy. We’re also continuing to add some features. In our business, in yours, pretty soon everybody’s doing the same features.
We can’t say that we’re doing something unique like everybody else. The other reason I say boring appliances is I was presenting at a conference that was held at JW Marriott Resort in Palm Springs. I said to people I meet with the Danby Appliances. Are you familiar with Danby Appliances? They say, “No.” I said, “Did you look at the fridge in your room? We made that.” They don’t look at the fridge. You’re blind to it. How can I make it so that you’re not blind to my appliance without being obnoxious that it’s a great big, huge Danby?
It’s smart though. Boring can also mean if it’s done right consistent. What you want to be is we want to be consistent. We are there when you need us. We’re not going to go down and we’re going to do a great job. We try to be consistently fun. Our motto is fans first, entertain always. That’s who we are because if you come to a baseball game and you’re bored, you’re like everyone else, you don’t want to come back. It’s being real and who you are.
I am impressed with some of your creativity like the Banana Nanas. That’s genius because it’s hilarious in a way and it’s funny and it’s fun. Everything is great. You had the Bananas Cheerleaders. It’s like ho-hum like, “Everybody else has cheerleaders.”
That’s who we are and know who we are. That’s great. I was trying to learn from people that I’ve gone to different levels. That’s what you’ve done your whole life is learned from other people that have done it. We’re going to have to save it. We’re going to have some fun, Jim. I’m going to skip here. We’re going to go right to this. We’re going to do our first game. We’re going to get you out of your box a little bit out. Out of the box, there are lots of opportunities to use that. You use that with some of your marketing maybe. There’s something there. I’m thinking about that because everything comes in a box.
Everything comes in a box. What we do on the boxes is we study how people take appliances out of the boxes to try to make it a better experience. A freezer is a perfect example. It’s big. You cut the straps and the box lifts off the top. Can you imagine where you have to cut the top? How are you going to get the freezer out of the box? You can’t get the freezer out of the box unless you’re Hercules. The box lifts off the appliance, not the appliance lifting out of the box. I’m using that as an example.
It’s such a great example because people send many videos of them opening up Apple boxes. It’s like an event. I’m opening up that Apple box. We thought about that. With our boxes, we’re bright yellow, they have a big stamp. It says delivered fresh with the bananas on it. We have yellow tissue paper. We have a letter saying ridiculous about here’s some special potassium for you. There are extra cruises, extra decals because it’s part of the experience. When they open that up, that’s part of the experience. For the box, it’s like, “People hate opening the boxes.” No one gets excited about the box. They got to use this. They got to use a knife. It’s hard but you may get easier, which is smart. The first game is Truth and Dare. Which one would you like first?
We’ll go with the truth.
What is one thing that’s been holding you back even now? As you’ve grown your business, you’ve learned much over the years. What’s something that still holds you back a little?
For me, it’s all about time. If you could send me some time, I’ll buy it.
We’re going to get into that because you have a time tracking system. We’re going to get into that after this dare. That’s a good segue. It’s time for your dare. Don’t worry, a lot of the guests, I have them sing because we have Sing It. I’m not going to make you sing, Jim, but it might get weird. Here’s the game, Jim. We do this at our ballpark. It’s called Bananas Barn Yard. We have about 4 or 5 grown men come on the field. We yell out animal names and they have to act like that animal in front of 4,000 fans. Here’s where it’s going to come in together. I want you to either make a noise or act like the animal that you and Danby represent the most. What is an animal that you channeled that you guys represent your company or yourself?
That is dogs. Dogs are loyal. Dogs love you all the time. We would be the dog, that’s my feelings and I apologize for all the cat lovers out there. I probably lost half of my sales.
I’ve done the math. There are few cat lovers compared to dog lovers out there. You went to the right audience, which is there. You would be a dog. That’s great, loyal, consistent, always there. That’s outstanding. Good thing you don’t have to get on all fours. This was much easier, Jim. I made it easier for you. You made the segue about time and I know you briefly mentioned it during MMT. You have a time tracking system, which is interesting because we all struggle with time. What should we be doing more of? What should be doing less of? Tell me about your time system.
Many years ago, I wrote a book called Time Leadership. It’s a book on time management. All it really is a compilation of a lot of other people’s time, things that I modified and made them into mine. There’s nothing genius about my time system. I don’t believe that what I do is exactly perfect for you. In reality, although I say it’s time, it’s not time. It’s only a book. It’s much more about priorities. You have the same amount of time. It’s a matter of what is the best use of your time. That question was asked by Alan Lakein, who’s one of the inventors of time management. His question was, “What’s the best use of your time?” The system that I do is more about knowing what my goals are, knowing what my priorities are. It’s making the time, spending time on those priorities.
As the CEO of a big company, how many team members/employees do you have?
In North America, maybe 500 or so.
Your 500 people that you’re leading and you’re trying to get the company to continue to grow because it’s inspirational. What is the best use of your time as a CEO or that you’ve seen that would be applicable to other CEOs?You never win when you're chasing someone. Click To Tweet
The best way when you’re in a medium-sized company like Danby is to get leverage by getting the team to do more things. What I say is I don’t do anything. Everybody else does everything. My job is to grease the team and make the team do a better and better job. That is my best use of time. As a CEO, other good uses of my time, there are some big customers that I might have a good impact on. There are big issues all the time in a company that the CEO always has to deal with legal finance, cash.
You’re in the big picture stuff working for the leadership. It sounds simple, but there are lots of pieces to it. You talk about your team a little bit. I love this quote you said, “I should live the same way my staff does.” Jim, that’s unbelievably inspirational because 99% of CEOs do not do that. Explain how you came to that. How do you do that?
I came to it by accident because I didn’t have a lot of money. I started my business so I didn’t have a lot of money. I grew fast, I consumed cash because the metrics did $1 million in sales. I needed an extra $250,000 working capital. The year I go from $68 million to $104 million, that’s $40 million more sales. I need $10 million more working capital. I wasn’t generating $10 million. I was always cash strapped. That created a frugality in my personal life that once I live that long, I said, “This is not a bad way to live and it’s not that I live bad, I have a car that runs, I’ve got houses that’s nice.” I don’t figure I need to have four houses and I don’t need to have a jet. I love my Prius C, it’s a 2012 Prius C. It’s seven-year-old but it’s a nice car. I call it a sports car. It’s red.
Forever frugal is what you’ve talked about, it’s a mindset.
The other thing I’ve learned is it’s somewhat inspirational to my staff. I don’t think they are as inspired to say, “We’re going to dig in so that Jim can buy another fast car or a yacht.”
Back to us, when I first started, I couldn’t pay myself the first three months. Our first six months, my wife and I had to sell our house, empty our savings account. Our staff still talks about that. They’re like, “You guys would do that for us?” I was like, “Of course.” There were no other options because there was no other money. When you share those stories, it’s inspirational. Our goal is the more success that we have that we still live that way. I’m sure you’ve lived that way as well that, “We’re not spending tons of money, we’re going to keep this mindset. It starts, “Is the founder and CEO living that same way?”
The other thing is sometimes when people hear the word frugal, they think cheap. Frugal is not cheap. Cheap means you buy a pen that doesn’t work or that works for a day. No, it’s getting the best value for the money. I will sometimes spend more money on something that’s durable, long-lasting. I spend more money on something, which is better. It is the result you’re going to get for the money you spent. How much impact does it have on the overall scheme of things relative to the cost? Your yellow tissue paper, if you were to buy it at $0.10 a sheet versus $0.05 a sheet, does it change the experience? It probably doesn’t change the experience to pay $0.05 if I don’t know my tissue paper well enough but you get the gist of it.
When we’re dealing with customers, part of the key is adding value. What we’re doing, adding enough value that customers see the value. I could wrap all my appliances in silk. When you get it, think that’s worth money for you. Is that worth something to you or is it not worth something to you? That’s where companies have to figure out, even in your entertainment. You could hire the Rolling Stones to play at the start of every game, but does that add as much value or you better off to do it the frugal way? I assume you hire someone for less than the Rolling Stones.
How can you provide so much value that price becomes irrelevant? You have to be strategic on what that value is adding. That’s what we think about our all-inclusive tickets. I’m sure things with you like, “This appliance will not break down. It’s going to be a great appliance for you.” You’re going to add the price doesn’t matter as much, which is a great model. I want to move to some more games. We’re going to go into Shark Tank. If you can invest in one company or industry, what would it be and why?
I am taking that challenge because I’m investing in a company that I started called ShipperBee. ShipperBee is a courier. Why would I invest in a courier business? The parcel shipping industry is growing 20% per year. I love going into a growth business. The other reason I am investing in ShipperBee because we saved 73.1% of the greenhouse gas per parcel shipped. It can be my environmental legacy because I’m an environmental guy, save the world. That’s what. You can tell I’m excited.
You’re jumping into a new industry that is crowded. You’re not going to be number one right away. What makes you different is the environmental component.
Part of what makes us different is the environment component. We’re reinventing the way parcels are shipped and we’re doing it differently. We’ve got a number of other little differences that some customers appreciate like continuous pickup instead of having to wait until 4:00 when your FedEx driver comes and picks up. It gets picked up as you have the parcels ready. We save trucks on the roads. We’re tapping into a demographic shift that is happening. It’s difficult to hire truck drivers. We’re tapping in the different labor markets.
You said you were completely reinventing how it’s done, continuous pickup and then you said different things with the trucks. What else?
We’re tapping into a demographic. We’re doing it differently. It’s more like an Uber-type model. It’s gig economy, but at the same time, a lot of things are using what I call the Power of While which is a coin. When I wrote my time management book many years ago, what is the Power of While? What can you do while you’re doing something else? I can say, “I am driving to Savannah.” It says, “We’ll pick up ten parcels at this Mobil Station and drop them off at the Exxon Station at the other exit.” It’s the Power of While because I already had some space in my cards, it’s easy to move them. The other advantage when you go into a market that’s growing at 20% per year. Yes, it’s crowded. Yes, there are competitors. If I were to take 1% of that growth, then the competitors only grow by 19%. It’s not a zero-sum game. It’s a lot like what you do. You’re taking some entertainment dollars. Where I’m going to spend my entertainment dollars is I’ll come to the baseball game or I’ll go to the movie, but the baseball game’s more fun, more interesting, more talkable.
The Power of While concept like while you’re driving, you can do this, while you’re doing this, you can do this. What are those other things that you can do? It sounds like multitasking, which can be dangerous. What’s the difference?
The difference is multitasking when you’re trying to do two things that require the same attention at the same time. A simple example would be I am talking to you on a show. I listen only to audiobooks and shows when I am driving. Is that multitasking? You could say it is except no, I drive the car automatically. It’s safer than talking to someone because it requires less focus. I do walking meetings with my staff. I have a trail right near here and we go and walk the trail. I’ve got a couple of different routes. One of them takes twenty minutes. One of them takes 30 minutes. The beauty of being outside is it’s tough to be depressed when you’re outside. It’s leveling. If I were to say to one of my people come to meet me in my office, that’s scary. Meet with the CEO where a CEO is going for a walk, let’s go for a walk. That’s the Power of While.
We walk around the stadium, so we do walk around the warning traffic.
You’ve got the best place to walk.
It’s so much inspiration. It’s easy too. It’s not this one-on-one, it’s less intimidating. You’re walking. You don’t have to look at each other’s eyes all the time. You can have a great conversation. My wife started doing this a few years ago and it’s amazing. Anyone who’s reading, do walking meetings. Jim, I’m glad that’s a part of what you’re doing.
I walk with everybody who works to reports to me once a week. Everyone who reports to them once every two weeks, everyone reports to them once a month. When I’m getting down in the organization, I walk with three people at a time because three people at a time are even less intimidating than, “This big mean CEO is going to be walking with me.” It keeps the conversation going.
Meetings you said too, they don’t have to be 30 minutes, you can make them twenty minutes, they don’t have to be as long. You can also make them shorter and more impactful. Let’s go to some final game, some rapid-fire here, Flip the Script. Jim, you are now the host of Business Done Differently. You can ask me one question because I’ve been grilling you for a bit.Sending someone a voice message is more personal than sending an email. Click To Tweet
The one question is how I can sell more bar fridges?
I’m not going to say self-serving. Do you want me to answer that as someone not knowing that industry at all?
Absolutely, you have a different perspective than I have.
With the bar fridges, the same things you’re asking, who are you targeting? The question I asked here was what makes you different? What makes this bar fridge different? My question would be, how is it unique? How is it fun? How do you make the experience different? For instance, I forget the name of the cooler, but this cooler came out. It had everything on it. It had Bluetooth. When it came out, everyone was talking about it because it was special. What happens if you make a great bar cooler? What happens in that experience? Is it a video that shows it in a different way? How can you use videos instead of marketing but make it like this is a unique one. When they get it, could there be drinks included? Could there be koozies included? What could be said like, “This bar cooler keeps giving, it’s not your typical bar cooler?” That’s what we think about. It’s each touchpoint. How do you get them to talk more? I would think about that. That’s off the cuff. It’s self-serving but well done, Jim. It’s impressive.
I’ll give you another one that’s not self-serving though. What’s most important, health or wealth?
That’s wisdom your audience needs. Health is more important. That’s your walking meetings.
If you don’t have health, you won’t have wealth, you won’t have a family. Health comes first. That will shape you. I’ve seen that with my dad who battled cancer and myself. When we’re burnt out, we can’t work. If we ever go through time, it’s that exhaustion. That was great. Let’s keep going. It’s question time. If you want better answers in business, you need to ask better questions. What are some other questions you’re asking?
I like the how-to question, not the why question. Why aren’t we selling this? Why doesn’t this work? People come with reasons why this doesn’t work. If I asked how, people come up with more creative comments and more creative suggestions.
You’re asking your people how we can do this, not why won’t this work. Give me an example.
There’s a process called five why’s where you drill into what someone does. Why do you enter an order? Because that’s how you get the product shipped. Why do you turn on your computer? It drills into why. The problem is that it can create a dig in. I’m going to dig in like why can’t, but then you say how you could ship and do double the orders? How could you and then that makes people open up. In my previous business, I was shipping 10,000 parcels a day. I said, “How can we ship 15,000 units?” The guy said, “It’s impossible. We’ve turned the conveyors up as fast as they can go. You can’t ship it. The only way we could ship 15,000 is we have to put it in a second line.” The answer is, “Why is that rocket science?” We’ll put it in a second line.” The answer is, “We can’t do that because there’s a cement wall.” “Yes, but that’s no technology. We cut through a cement wall.”
In my previous visit, you’re doing a billion in sales at the time or a couple of billion in sales. The order of magnitude of the cost. The person who’s telling you this thinks you can’t do it because they’re thinking, “I can’t spend $50,000.” When you’re doing $2 billion in sales, you can spend $50,000. That was an example of how. They throw up their hands. We can’t do it. The only way to do it is you have to have two lines. It’s like, “How can you double your ticket sales? You can’t do it. You only have so many seats.” “How could you do it?” “You’d have to add more seats.” “Add more seats.”
It’s such a great point, how the why is interesting. Southwest Airlines, the ten-minute turn. They said, “We’re going to go out of business unless we get more planes in the air quicker.” “How can we do it?” “We need to get in ten minutes.” He said, “It’s impossible.” They kept asking and they found a way to do it.
The CEO was being interviewed and the interviewer looks out on the tarmac and said, “Isn’t this great? Look at all these Southwest planes on it.” The CEO says, “That’s awful. We don’t make any money unless they’re in the air.” It’s a matter of thinking about it differently. It’s the same as your stadium. Isn’t it great that your stadium is you’re not making money unless there are people in your stadium?
It’s Tool Time. What’s the most important tool in your business toolbox?
This is one that most people don’t use because they’re all young. Dictation works well. You can talk faster than you can email. There are lots of free dictation apps you can get. Sending someone a voice message is more personal than sending you an email. I can send you but it’s going to take me a little longer to send it. That’s my tip that anyone can steal and use.
That’s what I call service. Jim, what are some of the best service that you’ve experienced?
The key with service is if you fix it fast, then people think you’re great even if you had a problem. You don’t have a problem if we fix it fast. You do have a problem if we say, “Hold on the phone for half-an-hour and then fill in a form,” and then you wait for 3 days and 6 days and 10 days.” Some of my best advocates are the ones that we messed up on. We shipped the wrong product. We did something that didn’t work. You say, “I can’t believe it. They replaced the product.” It got me another one in two days, even though he didn’t get the product that you want. Any service win like that, you gain a customer and you gain a customer for life.
It’s like the slogan by Nike, “Just do It.” I like, “Just fix it. Just write it,” and teach your people, “Just fix it.”
As a business owner, it doesn’t cost me any more to fix it instantly or to fix it in a week or 2 weeks or 3 weeks. It’s the same cost. As a matter of fact, it’d be more because the person gets angrier and angrier, then call a lawyer or whatever they do. You’re the best offer is going to pay the money. Pay it and smile.
What’s one thing that you’ve done in the business to stand out?
Buy into being the luxury guy that many CEOs are. I live a normal life. That’s the one thing that I do that does cost me to stand out, even though it makes me be more ordinary.How people act are impacted by your actions and who you are. Click To Tweet
If you were to give advice to someone younger and how they could stand out in business and be different, what would you suggest?
I suggest you give more than you take and give even though you don’t know that you will get a return. I have found that it comes back to help me many times that the favors that I did in the past. They come back a decade later and people don’t even think about it.
Provide value first. Always provide value. What’s some of the best advice you’ve received?
The best advice was, “Health is wealth.” I juggled my priorities a little and changed it so that I’m pretty good on my health. I eat well. I don’t eat meat. I work out.
Remember the 2nd day or 3rd day, we were the only two out there paddle boarding early. I was like, “We’re going to do this together and out there paddleboarding.” We only may fell maybe once, which wasn’t bad.
I fell all the time. It was more like swimming for me.
Final question, Jim. How do you want to be remembered?
Someone once said that people never really die. I’m not talking about eternal life. I’m talking you don’t die. Your memories and how people act are impacted by your actions and who you are. What I want to do is to influence as many people as possible to be their greatest selves.
Jim, you did that. I appreciate you joining the show, having some fun, acting like a dog at one point and talking about some great stories. I appreciate what you’ve shared with the audience and shared it with me.
Thank you. It’s good to talk to you, Jesse.
About Jim Estill
I am owner and CEO of Danby Appliances and ShipperBee.
I have been an entrepreneur for my entire life. Growing a technology distribution business from the trunk of my car to more than $350 million in sales.
After selling the business to SYNNEX, I became CEO of SYNNEX Canada and grew the company from $800 million to $2 billion.
I am an investor, advisor and board member to many technology businesses, including Blackberry – formerly Research In Motion (RIM) – where I served as a founding direct for 13 years.
I have also written two books. One on time management called “Time Leadership: Using the Secrets of Leadership for Time Management,” and more recently “Zero to $2 Billion: The Marketing and Branding Story Behind the Growth.”